Godzilla R.I.P. – Sayonara, Haruo Nakajima

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Haruo Nakajima (中島 春雄 Nakajima Haruo) the Japanese suitmation actor best known for portraying Godzilla from the original movie in 1954 through twelve consecuctive films until Godzilla vs Gigan in 1972, has passed away at the age of 88.

Alongside his physically demanding role as the King of the Monsters, he performed suitmation roles as monsters in an unprecedented number of kaiju eiga including Rodan (1956), Mogera in The Mysterians (1957), Varan the Unbelievable (1958), Mothra (1960), Matango (1963), Baragon in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Gaira in War of the Gargantuas (1966) and even the Eighth Wonder of the World himself, King Kong in King Kong Escapes (1967). He would also work with Godzilla special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya in a number of the popular Ultraman TV series.

Nakajima’s impressive career began at the age of 33 in Sword for Hire (1952), before taking on roles in The Woman Who Touched the Legs (1952), Eagle of the Pacific (1953) and Farewell Rabaul (1954) – both for original Godzilla director Ishirō Honda, which led directly to his casting as the beloved monster – and then Seven Samurai for Akira Kurosawa in 1954.

After his retirement from film and television work in 1973, Nakajima would become a popular and much loved figure at many Godzilla conventions around the world.

In the short film The Man Who Was Godzilla, Nakajima said: “In the end the Godzilla I played remains on film forever. It remains in people’s memory, and for that I feel really grateful.”

Rest in peace, Godzilla.

Rare Grooves – The Green Slime

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Welcome to the latest in an occasional series of articles where I’ll be looking at the songs that have graced some of my favourite films through the years. Of course, since this is OODH, it’s unlikely I’ll be tackling anything from Grease or The Little Mermaid (fabulous as the Ashman & Menken tunes were in the latter).

The Green Slime is a truly wild piece of space opera which, like the previous entry in this series, The Last Dinosaur, was an American/Japanese co-production, here between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Toei. MGM provided the funding and script while Toei provided the film crew and location to shoot the film. In fact a third country was involved, as the storyline originated in Italy and was supposed to be part of Antonio Margheriti’s Gamma One tv movie series.

The script was written by William Finger (the co-creator, arguably the creator, of huge swathes of what we now recognise as the Batman mythos), Tom Rowe and Charles Sinclair from a story by co-producer Ivan Reiner. The film was shot in Japan with a Japanese director and film crew, but a non-Japanese cast of Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel and Luciana Paluzzi.

The plot sees a group of scientists sent into space to destroy an asteroid on collison course with Earth. They return from their mission to the asteroid with an unwanted guest, a glowing piece of space fungus which mutates and multiplies into the screeching, tentacled green slime monsters of the title.

It’s camp, goofy and madly entertaining, and never less than breathlessly directed by Kinji Fukasaku, who also made the seminal Battles Without Honor and Humanity film series (1973-74) and the controversial Battle Royale (2000).

The music score was written by Toshiaki Tsushima, but Charles Fox re-scored much of the film for its release in United States. Fox, of course, was co-composer (along with Norman Gimbel) of Grammy winning hit song Killing Me Softly With His Song, and created the famous theme tune for Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman TV series (“In your satin tights, fighting for your rights…”).

And it’s the theme song for The Green Slime which brings us here today. Written by Fox and produced, arranged & performed by surf music pioneer Richard Delvy, the song gives us outré lyrics such as:

“What can it be; what is the reason?
Is this the end to all the seasons?
Is this just something in your head?
Would you believe it when you’re dead?
You’ll believe it when you find
something screaming across your mind …green slime!”

Once heard, never forgotten, this song will worm its way into your psyche like… well… green slime. Enjoy!

 

Blade Runner 2049 Trailer is A Thing of Beauty

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Considering I once thought of Blade Runner 2049 as being on top of my ‘Most Unnecessary Sequels Ever’ list I’m amazed this film has become one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and the brand new trailer has only ramped up that anticipation.

One of the most enticing aspects promised by the trailer (and everything else we’ve seen from the film so far) is that, while it’s obviously set in the same world as executive producer Ridley Scott’s 1982 original, it already very much feels like its own thing.

This possibly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since director Denis Villeneuve has displayed such a strong voice in films like Sicario and Arrival, but it’s heartening to have it confirmed that this won’t be a soulless retread.

It’s also worth pointing out just how beautiful Blade Runner 2049 is looking, and cinematographer Roger Deakins is certainly earning his pay. This baby is going to be eye-wateringly stunning on the big screen.

Released on October 16th, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, along with Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto (no, wait… come back…), Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davies and Edward James Olmos.

Hopefully you’re as buzzed by this as I am…

Will Wonder Woman Save DC Movies…?

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It’s no secret that here at Out of Dave’s Head Towers, the DC movies are considered to be something of a mess (and that’s being kinder than they perhaps deserve). Man of Steel has its qualities, Batman Vs Superman was an overstuffed mess and the less said about Suicide Squad the better for my use of expletives.

Dc and Warner Bros, clearly inspired by the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe dived into their first productions with zeal but no understanding of what made the Marvel movie franchises work so well. Instead of careful planning, the DC movies exhibit painfully obvious signs of throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in the hope of universe building, but do so with no vision of what makes their characters so special or indeed how an interconnected universe of movies should develop.

So it’s no small thing to say that I’m hoping against hope this rudderless ship of a brand can be saved by two women… director Patty Jenkins and DC’s Amazonian, Wonder Woman.

Everything about this film is shaping up nicely (though of course, the same could be said of the previous efforts) from the cast and crew to the look of the film. The Wonder Woman trailers (and Jenkins’ track record) have promised something far more cohesive and this latest from Warner Bros and DC is no exception.

Wonder Woman is a character who has never yet been handled right in her relatively few onscreen appearances (sorry, Lynda, I love you and your crazy 1970s TV show with its spangle and kookiness, but y’know…) and she deserves to be given the best treatment out of the starting gate.

Here’s hoping she can use her lassoo of truth to steer this ship into better waters.

Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, opens on June 2nd.

Han’s first shot…

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Lucasfilm have just released the photo above, marking the event of the Han Solo Star Wars Story officially beginning shooting yesterday, at Pinewood Studios, London.

Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are seen here in the iconic cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, along with Alden Ehrenreich as brand new, young Han Solo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, with Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca. The intriguing cast also includes Thandie Newton, who must have been off wrestling a gundark when this photo was shot.

The untitled Han Solo Star Wars Story is slated for release on May 25, 2018. Let’s hope they’ve come up with a title by then.

Source: StarWars.com

Rare Grooves – The Last Dinosaur

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Welcome to the first in an occasional series of articles where I’ll be looking at the songs that have graced some of my favourite films through the years. Of course, since this is OODH, it’s unlikely I’ll be tackling anything from Grease or The Little Mermaid (fabulous as the Ashman & Menken tunes were in the latter).

In 1977, Japan’s Tsuburaya Productions (creators of Ultraman) teamed up with Rankin/Bass in the U.S. (famous for animated specials such as Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Mad Monster Party) to co-produce an odd little gem, the Tokusatsu movie, The Last Dinosaur. Richard Boone and Joan Van Ark star as two Americans who travel to an Arthur Conan Doyle/Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired lost continent beyond the polar ice caps (accompanied by a Maasi warrior tracker and a scientest, played by Luther Rackley and Tetsu Nakamura), to find a lost geologist, played by Steven Keats.

Co-directed by Alexander Grasshoff and Shusei Kotani, billed as Tom Kotani, the finished production aired in the United States February 11, 1977 as a television movie on the ABC network and shortly afterwards was released in Japan as a theatrical feature.

The film comes roaring from the gate, all guns blazing, with its astonishing main attraction right from the outset. That’s not, as you might imagine, the snarling, drooling Tyrannosaurus Rex as featured prominently in the film’s posters and trailer, but rather the snarling, drooling, sexist, drink-sodden, wealthy big game hunter, Maston Thrust (…no, really). Hollywood legend Boone gives his all (and then some) as the aptly-named Thrust, starting out at ten and then dialling up the amp from there. Subtle and nuanced the performanced isn’t, but it sure is a thing of beauty!

Maury Laws was chosen to compose the film’s score (a job he did for many of the Rankin/Bass specials and series) while the title song, with lyrics by Jules Bass, was sung by Nancy Wilson, and arranged and conducted by Bernard Hoffer.

Bass, of course, was also one of the film’s producers, while Hoffer was later the composer of the theme song from beloved 1980s animated series, Thundercats.

Singer Nancy Wilson, also known as “The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice”, was world-renowned for her career in blues, r & b and jazz. For The Last Dinosaur, her vocals show no condescension at the material and she gives a superb performance in this Bondian recording. The lyrics can hilariously – and quite rightly – be read as referring to both Maston Thrust AND the film’s killer T-Rex, an achievement never topped by John Barry or his lyricists for any of the James Bond title songs.

Sit back, pour yourself a shot of whisky and let your ears be seduced by the 70s elegance of The Last Dinosaur.

 

And the title for Star Wars Episode VII is…

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…yes, as you can tell from the header image, it’s The Last Jedi.

Your illustrious writer has meticulously pieced together all currently verified information, taken his life into his hands by scouring the perilous and murky backwaters of internet rumours and can confidently conclude this title will refer to Luke Skywalker. Unless it refers to Rey. Or maybe Kylo Ren, if he does a last minute turnabout over to the side of the Force that isn’t the Dark Side.

Meanwhile, Lucasfilm released the following statement alongside the title and teaser poster:

We have the greatest fans in this or any other galaxy. In appreciation of the fans, we wanted them to be the first to know the title of the next chapter in the Skywalker saga: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. THE LAST JEDI is written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Jason McGatlin, and Tom Karnowski. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is scheduled for release December 15, 2017.

If we’re really lucky, the last Jedi will turn out to actually be the Force ghost of Jake Lloyd, the young actor who portrayed Anakin Skywalker in… brrrr… The Phantom Menace, still jumping around sporting that pudding basin haircut and yelling “Yippeee!” everywhere.

Dave Saves You From The Great Escape

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You know the deal. You’ve gathered in the warm, family hearth and home for the holiday season, you’re gorged on meats and sweets and faced with the prospect of sitting down to watch The Great Escape or Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

Suggested by my friend, Maria Kreutzmann (hey, Maria) allow me to present you with ten alternatives to Steve McQueen or Daniel Radcliffe (although the latter does crop up here, albeit in a much gassier form). These are films which have tickled my cinematic fancy, both in decades past and of more recent vintage. Whether you’d term them cult movies (a much bastardised phrase) is down to your own viewing habits, but you’ll find these choices both close to and way off the beaten track.

Season’s greetings and you’re welcome…

Brotherhood of the Wolf/Le Pacte des loups (2001)
A genuine pleasure from start to finish – a French horror/action, werewolf, martial arts, sexy historical drama featuring Monica Belluci, Vincent Cassel and low rent but personable action star Mark Dacascos. Loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, this is a fever dream for lovers of exploitation movies and art house films, as it falls squarely between the two, producing something unique and utterly lovable.

Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Reviewed fully here on Out of Dave’s Head. Kurt Russell, Kurt Russell’s moustache, a Western/cannibal hybrid. What more do you need to know!?

Hammett (1982)
Despite massive tampering from the studio (script rewrites, massive reshoots), Wim Wenders’ American debut remains an interesting curio. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, Hammett is a post-modern homage to and an attempted deconstruction of both pulp fiction mysteries and of author Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, etc), that features an excellent cast (Frederic Forrest, Peter Boyle, David Patrick Kelley and cinema stalwart Elisha Cook Jr) and ends up messy but stylish. It also has another of John Barry’s beautiful, late period scores. Well worth seeking out.

Lady in White (1988)
Criminally underrated and fully deserving of a decent blu-ray release, Lukas Haas stars in a spooky, atmospheric campfire tale that is deliciously layered and will have fans of 1980s Amblin’ and Netflix’s Stranger Things eating out of its hand. Put it together with the recent Woman in Black for a perfectly colour coordinated night of chills.

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Bigger Than Life (1956)
Nicholas Ray’s film packs a powerful punch, a mighty melodrama that gives a full-on Glasgow Kiss to stultifying 1950s morality. Featuring James Mason (who co-wrote and produced) as a hapless schoolteacher whose frustrations at life become more heightened as he becomes addicted to cortisone. This is Breaking Bad for the Rebel Without a Cause generation (not surprising since that was Ray’s previous film), and has a lot to say about our modern attitudes towards addiction and mental illness. It’s also beautiful to look at, featuring beautiful complimentary and contradictory widescreen photography.

Swiss Army Man (2016)
Another film with a full review here on Out of Dave’s Head. Up there as a contender for best film of 2016, right alongside The Greasy Strangler.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
So many wonderful things in this film – the Barry Manilow/drunk sequence, the forest elemental sequence (which should bring a tear to your eye), the beautifully nuanced climax, great performances (Perlman, Doug Jones, Anna Walton, Luke Goss), fabulous practical effects monsters and a gorgeous Elfman score. Not only a vast improvement over the original (which is already a lot of fun) but a brilliant movie in its own right. A monster movie with a great big, soft old heart. Now then, GDT, where the heck is Hellboy 3!?

Pépé le Moko (1937)
A romantic thriller that raises the genre to poetry. A possible inspiration for both Casablanca and The Third Man and a close relative of the soon-to-be-born Film Noir,  Pépé le Moko (Jean Gabin), is a criminal on the run in metropolitan France, living in the Casbah quarter of Algiers, where he is out of reach of the local police. Inspector Slimane (Lucas Gridoux) sees a way to lure Pépé out of his refuge when the criminal falls for Mireille Balin’s Gaby, the mistress of a rich businessman. Sensual, intriguing and essential, and Gabin’s character was also the inspiration for cartoon star, Pepe le Pew. Now you have to see it, right!?

The Unknown (1927)
One of my favourite silent movies, starring the incredible Lon Chaney (“the man of 1,000 faces”) as an armless carnival knife thrower (who throws with his feet) and a young Joan Crawford as the object of his affections. Crawford has a fear of being held in a man’s arms, which would be lucky for Chaney except for the fact that he’s actually a criminal on the run (which might make it a good double bill with the aforementioned, Pépé le Moko) who hides his fully functioning arms by keeping them bound to his torso. Needless to say, this affair doesn’t go well and The Unknown features a climax just as gruesome as director Tod Browning’s perhaps better known, Freaks.

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The Baby (1973)
Director Ted Post is a firm favourite of mine, with his filmography covering the likes of Hang ‘em High and Magnum Force (with Clint Eastwood), Beneath the Planet of the Apes and a veritable smorgasbord of great TV work (The Twilight Zone, Thriller, Gunsmoke and, um, B.A.D. Cats). But nothing else he did was quite as out there as The Baby, a horror thriller that features an eccentric family which includes “Baby”, a 21-year-old man who acts like an infant. Best seen on a double bill with Jack Hill’s wonderful Spider Baby, which might put you off of families for life. Ideal Christmas viewing, in fact.

My Favourite Scene – Spaceship Porn (a Star Trek anniversary special)

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Sometimes when watching a movie, one scene can bring that entire film to life, or give you a sense of ownership of that film (or of being owned by it) even when all your critical senses might be fighting against you. This article will be the first in an occasional series where I look at the scenes which do that for me. And today, in honour of the 60th anniversary of Star Trek, I’m going for a doozy!

Released in 1979 and directed by filmmaking great, Robert Wise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture carried a lot of baggage and continues struggling with much of that baggage today.

In the wake of the astonishing box office and cultural success of Star Wars, Paramount Pictures finally gave the greenlight to a long gestating relaunch of their own science-fiction franchise, one which would bring to the big screen the much-loved cast of the CBS TV series, cancelled a decade before.

With a (for its time) astronomically huge budget of around $46 million, mixed reviews from the critics (who found the film ponderous and lacking in the sheer verve of George Lucas’ blockbuster) and less than expected earnings from cinema audiences, the film was considered a failure by some.

Regardless of what might be seen as its failings, there is a scene early in the film so audacious that I can’t help but fall in love with this lopsided puppy every single time.

The story is set some unspecified period of time after the TV show’s five year mission. As a result of a huge, galactic something making its way grumpily towards Earth, wiping out everything and some unfortunate Klingons in its path, a now desk-bound, pen pushing Admiral Kirk (William Shatner, of course) fights his way back into the command seat of Starfleet’s greatest spaceship, the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Transporting up to a station orbiting above the Earth, Kirk is greeted by his old Engineer, Commander Scott, or Scotty with the suspect accent as we know him better (still portrayed by James Doohan). As a plot point, this is done because the still-being-refurbished Enterprise is having some technical issues and its own transporters are out of order (leading to the icky death of some clumsily rematerialized crew members later), however it’s also done to give Star Trek: The Motion Picture its single greatest scene.

Scotty takes Kirk across to the Enterprise in a small shuttlecraft and both Kirk and the viewer are given tantalising views of the refurbished ship, ablaze in a sea of lights, in a drydock floating in space. The filmmakers referred to their look for the Enterprise as “an ocean liner in space”, and they really hit a home run with it.

As the shuttle draws nearer to the Enterprise, we become Kirk, viewing his beloved spaceship for the first time in years. Jerry Goldsmith’s quite beautiful, rousing and romantic music score underlines both the majesty of the starship and the huge emotions welling up inside Kirk.

At first they move outside the drydock’s frame, flirtatiously teasing us with the beauty inside, the Enterprise’s porcelain curves hidden behind steel and metal. Then Scotty swings the shuttle out wide, letting the drydock’s lacy underwear fall away, revealing the spaceship in all its naked glory.

Scotty cruises the shuttle all around the docked Enterprise allowing Kirk (and us) an intimate view of the ship’s beautiful body, he glides between the wide nacelles like he’s parting the legs of a woman prior to making love, then in an absolute crescendo of visuals and music, he eases the shuttlecraft closer… closer… to the docking port on the Enterprise. The film reaches an almost literal sexual climax as the shuttlecraft enters the Enterprise, joining as one.

Kirk looks at his friend and with a satisfied post-coital tone says, “Thank you, Mr Scott.”

Make no mistake about it, this scene is pornography, plain and simple. It’s hardcore porn that satisfies several fetishes – it’s spaceship porn, special effects porn and out and out Star Trek porn. It shows off the Enterprise lovingly, lustily, it luxuriates in the expertise and skills of the artists and technicians who bring the scene brilliantly to life and it wallows in the characters of Scotty, Kirk and his spaceship amour, the Enterprise. It’s filmed exactly like a love scene, long, sensual shots, music rising and falling with Kirk’s (and our) growing arousal.

The whole scene (from Kirk’s arrival on the space station to the final vehicular penetration) is almost seven minutes long, it serves next to nothing in terms of plot function (the points it does cover could easily be carried elsewhere, and with greater brevity) and in fact, it could be argued that the sequence stops the whole film dead in its tracks. I’d certainly struggle to argue with that.

And yet… the whole thing is played with such breathless devotion to its various fetishes, and with such candour at its intended aims, that what should leave me impatiently drumming my fingers instead has me grinning from ear to ear like a lovesick fool.

It’s pure folly to leave this scene intact, but it’s such a thing of confident and giddy fearlessness to subject a cinema audience to this lust in space that all you can do is surrender to its spunky charm and go with the flow.

After this scene, the film can happily take me wherever it wishes to go. Maybe to even boldly go…